Survey: lighting conditions when working from home.

Jonathan Rush

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In the last newsletter, I shared a survey to gather information about lighting conditions at home. I want to explore the impacts that working from home could have on our health and behaviour, and I’m curious to see if we prefer our current lighting conditions at home or in our offices. The data below includes responses from people at Hoare Lea, as well as others in the industry who completed the survey.

Let’s look at the results.

The before and after. In previous working spaces nearly 77% of us were within 4 metres of a window and 50% within 2 metres. This means people had better access to natural light in their offices than I expected.

Key:

YES NO SORT OF

In your previous workplace do you sit within 4 metres of a window that provides some daylight?

In your previous workplace do you sit within 2 metres of a window that provides some daylight?

That said, the access to natural light in people’s homes was significantly better in comparison. 96% of respondents sit within 4m and 88% within 2m.

In your new home workplace do you sit within 4 metres of a window that provides some daylight?

In your new home workplace do you sit within 2 metres of a window that provides some daylight?

This doesn’t account for the actual quantity of daylight at these workstations. However, this does suggest that when working from home, we are closer to windows with better access to natural light.

The comparison; daylight. I asked recipients to rate the quality of their daylight at both the office and their home. Most people rated the quality of their office daylight at a 6 or above. However, nearly 30% of gave a rating of 5 or below.

By comparison, the results for home working suggests that people generally perceive the quality of their home daylight as better than their office. More than a third of people (35%) gave their home daylight the best possible score and only 9% rated it a 5 or below.

The comparison; a view outside. I asked recipients to rate the quality of their daylight at both the office and their home. Most people rated the quality of their office daylight at a 6 or above. However, nearly 30% of gave a rating of 5 or below.

In your previous workplace did you have a view of the outside:

And in your home workplace:

The right light. Unless specifically designed to maximise daylight, most offices require plenty of artificial light. I wanted gauge people’s perceptions of the artificial light in their offices.

In your workplace/home, rate how much you like working within the electric/artificial light you receive at your desk.

The data shows that most people rate their lighting somewhere in the middle, suggesting a degree of ambivalence. This isn’t particularly surprising, as lighting can be weak spot for many workplaces. Personally, I expect this ambivalence comes from the general acceptance of years of poor office lighting design. Even though 80% have no tailored lighting for working at home, you can see a notable trend for preference of their domestic artificial light.

The power of autonomy. My inference is that people prefer their artificial lighting at home, because it is something they have ownership of. The feeling of control and the ability to create a bespoke solution have a big positive impact. In many offices, individuals have little or no control of the lighting for their specific workspace, and even if they do, they will likely have to account for the preferences of others as well. It’s impersonal and, therefore, not a surprise that people prefer their own space. However, we should also consider that at the time of completing this survey (spring), we were experiencing particularly clear, sunny weather. There is less reliance on our artificial lighting at home, so people might not be so positive in gloomier weather. Time for bed. There were some interesting results regarding sleep. The pandemic and subsequent lockdown have created a stressful environment and I expected that the 24hr news cycle would have affected how many perceived quality of their sleep. Instead, most people suggested that their sleep was better since the lockdown began.

How would you rate your sleep quality?

There are surely many factors contributing to this, such as more time at home, decreased commuting time, more relaxed working environments and more family time, but I wonder how much of an impact our increased access to daylight has had? I’ve written previously about ‘circadian lighting’ and the way that light helps our bodies know when it is time to sleep and when it is time to wake. Inadequate exposure to the right sort of light during the day and too much light in the evening delays sleep onset and degrades sleep quality. I don’t think that it is unreasonable to equate our increased daylight exposure while working from home with playing some role in an improvement in sleep. Back to reality. When we return to the office, will our experience of working from home significantly impact our expectations? Will we seek a greater balance between communal workplaces and home working? If companies mean for their people to actually “want” to return, what changes should they make? I believe that we have an opportunity to redesign offices to align with our needs. Now is the time to discard old habits of poor office lighting. We need to design lighting for workplaces that are worth leaving the house for.

And next...

Our IT services: we need your voice. Over the coming months our IT team will be reaching out to you to ask for feedback on the products we support and the services we provide. We have a few initial questions and we also want to gauge interest in forming an ‘IT User Committee’, which would test new products and discuss IT related matters outside of support calls.